It has now been 256 days since Arizona State’s baseball team was eliminated from the Fort Worth Regional against host TCU a season ago, and the Sun Devils are more than ready to shed some of that rust in their return to the diamond this weekend.
On the other side of that diamond will be Northwestern, an interesting opening opponent in a number of ways. We’ve got your weekend preview below.
Pitching Matchups (2016 stats in parentheses)
Friday - LHP Eli Lingos (ASU) - 3-5, 4.50 ERA vs. RHP Joe Schindler - 1-2, 5.09 ERA (NW)
Friday - RHP Ryan Hingst (ASU) - 3-1, 3.06 ERA vs. RHP Hank Christie - Freshman (NW)
Saturday - LHP Spencer Van Scoyoc (ASU) - Freshman vs. LHP Matt Gannon - Freshman (NW)
Arizona State Update
Head coach Tracy Smith loses five key players from last year’s club that won 36 games, but an inheritance of the top recruiting class in the country should help ease some of that pain.
Gone are starters Hever Bueno and Seth Martinez, who were selected in the ninth and 17th rounds of last June’s MLB Draft, but the addition of freshman Spencer Van Scoyoc will help Smith and company big-time. The southpaw has already worked his way into the starting rotation and is expected to contribute right away after turning down an offer to join the Toronto Blue Jays out of high school.
Offensively, Arizona State will need to find a way to replace the production of Brian Serven, Colby Woodmansee, and David Greer, all of whom were taken in the top 10 rounds in last summer’s draft.
The Valley of the Sun has served as a second home for Northwestern recently, as this will be the third consecutive year the Wildcats open their season in the desert (2016 in Mesa, 2015 out in Surprise).
Head coach Spencer Allen is now in his second year at the helm in Evanston, and while it is likely his team will finish towards the bottom of the Big Ten in 2017, an improvement on last season’s 15-39 record is expected. That club did seem to round into form towards the end of the year as Northwestern won five of its final six conference games, so Allen will try to build on that finish with a roster that returns nearly all of its key components.
Junior right-hander Tommy Bordignon figures to be team’s ace and was slated to start Friday’s series opener before the schedule was moved around due to some expected inclement weather in the Phoenix area. A Big Ten preseason honors recipient, Bordignon should toe the rubber in either the first or second game of this series.
The Wildcats are led offensively by senior outfielder Matt Hopfner. Hopfner topped the team with a .355 batting average as a junior, a season in which he started 53 games. He will be the biggest threat to the Sun Devil pitching staff this weekend.
- Due to some forecasted rain for the Valley, the first two games of this series will be played on Friday (at 2:00 and 6:30 p.m.). The series finale is tentatively scheduled for Saturday afternoon at 1:00, but that game will be pushed to Sunday at 12:30 p.m. if necessary.
- First baseman Taylor Lane will sit out game one due to an NCAA eligibility-related suspension. The violation stems from Lane’s participation in a fall scrimmage against Central Arizona, which he was supposed to sit out after transferring in from Northwest Florida State.
- Northwestern is 0-8 in its last eight games against Pac-12 opponents. Its last victory over a Pac-10/12 school came on February 13, 2004, when the Wildcats beat Washington State in the same complex that the Maroon and Gold now call home.
- All games will be streamed live on Pac-12.com.